Bitcoin legacy

I’ve been slacking off the past couple days. Two days without posting isn’t something I want to turn into a habit, so here I am, even on days when I don’t have much to say.

I was doing pretty good this week, going to bed on time, getting up early, I even worked out for the first time in weeks. All it took was a couple drinks Thursday afternoon and everything is off track again.

We did have a campfires Thursday and Friday night, first over at our house, then yesterday at the neighbor’s, roasting hot dogs and making smores. Afterward I had to take Elder to Urgent Care for what appears to be nothing more than dehydration. Wasted two hours plus dealing with that. Oh well.

My mom came into town Thursday. We haven’t seen her since the lockdown. She brought lunch and presents for the kids, as well as some family “heirlooms” that she didn’t have room for. One was a box of Christmas Village houses, and the other were some collectible plates that my grandfather bought forty years ago.

It seems like every female member of my family was into these Christmas Villages growing up. Every winter the tops of the kitchen cabinets would get decorated with fake snow and out would come the houses. My grandmother and aunts, and my mom all had them. Missus and her family never got into them, so she was disappointed when I told my mom I’d take them. I couldn’t say no, I guess.

The plates though, oh, these plates. They’re a series of ceramic plates portraying Mother Goose rhymes. They’re by a company called Roco, and the artist is named John McClelland. My grandfather got scammed out of them big time. I looked through the paperwork that came with them, and man did he get took. He saved the solicitations, talking up the “limited” series as a hot collectible item. Plates from the first run in 1978 were going for $150 each, and there’s no way that he wanted to miss out on the rest run. And he bought what looks like is the whole set, some ten plates that went for $25 in 1981. That’s about $75 each in today’s dollars.

I checked eBay, and individual plates were going for as little as $5 each.

If my grandfather had simply invested that $250 in the S&P index, back in 1981, it would be worth almost six grand.

It should have been obvious, looking at the fact that the serial numbers on the plates have five figures. These things weren’t collectable items, they were mass produced.

Now I don’t know if my grandfather took any pleasure in the plates themselves, or if he thought he was making a sound investment in them. It looks like he started buying them the year I was born, and he passed away many years ago, so I never talked to him about them. When my mom asked me if I would take them, I didn’t want to say “no” without looking at them. I don’t have anything left of my grandfather, save a stained glass lamp that he made, so I didn’t want to throw this out without looking at it.

Now that I’ve seen them though…

I’m tempted to stuff them in a dark corner of my attic and deal with them later, but I can’t do it. They will have to go. I should just take the whole lot and stick it in the car now and bring it straight down to the thrift store. My grandfather’s name and address is all over the boxes, I don’t know if I need to bother marking them out or not. Probably not.

I haven’t even looked at the Christmas Villages. Not sure if I will.

When my mom left for her trip, she took my old bassinet with me. She had given it to us for our daughter, but it wasn’t that practical and we never wound up using it much. I asked her if she wanted me to get rid of it, but she wound up taking it with her. She wanted to save it so that my girls could use it for their kids. I asked her if she was really going to keep it for another twenty or thirty years, especially since she had told me earlier that she was moving to Portugal in a few years. In fact, the whole reason she was bringing me the plates and villages was because she had sold her mountain cabin and was trying to downsize into one home. It didn’t make any sense.

Missus said that her family aren’t hoarders like mine are, but I’m not sure if that’s quite what it is. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of legacy or heirlooms that they’re trying to leave behind. But it’s got to go.

Missus and I have been embracing minimalism. We’re starting to reject the consumerism and accumulation of wealth that we were brainwashed into, and try to get to the point where we can be free, or freer at lease. There’s a point, coming soon I think, where we’ll be able to maintain our lifestyle and only need to work for a few hours a day. If bitcoin fulfils it’s promise like I think it will, we’ll be looking at a point in the next year or two that we’ll have enough wealth to be independent. To get there, we’ve got to make lots of cuts. Not just the second car, but just cleaning out the clutter in the house.

Nothing comes in now without something going out. That’s the idea, at least. Christmas is a hard test, since I’ve got a foyer full of gifts from relatives, and have more tucked away in closets and under the tree. I’ve promised Missus that I’ll finish ordering for my overseas relatives as soon as I get done writing.

I was tempted to buy a three pack of Opendimes and load them up with some BTC to give as gifts, but ultimately decided it was too expensive. I still think it would make a good gift though, but they’re too expensive to be a casual gift. As a legacy or heirloom though, I can’t think of anything that would be more appropriate.

My grandfather also bought me a treasury bond when I was born, I can’t recall if it was twenty five or one hundred dollars. When I was thirteen I used it to open my first bank account, and cashed it in. I’ve been thinking a lot about bitcoin as legacy, not just my own kids but their heirs as well. If we’re truly moving into the next phase of Bitcoin’s evolution, then it would be wise not to ever sell what I’ve accumulated. It could be generational wealth.

Continued optimism

Nose to the grindstone.

So I actually got a quite a bit done yesterday since I wasn’t obsessing over $BTC price action yesterday. I spent most of my time working in Hardhat, trying to figure out how to make tests work using the Waffle/Chai suite. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around all the different dependencies so that I can do things. It’s a lot to take in, even for me, so I just had to turn in early last night and give my brain a rest.

I’ve been reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano for the past week. I finished Slaughterhouse Five earlier last month — it’s a short read — Player Piano is much more like a regular novel. I only gotten through the first fifth of it, but it’s quite amazing from a futurist standpoint. The novel deals with the economic and class consequences of automation and computerization, and even touches on things like standardized test scores determining one’s algorithmic destiny. It’s really making me think about the kids’ education.

Elder is really spending a lot of her day working on schoolwork. I know it’s really not a lot compared to how much time she would be spending in class if they were in person, but it just seems like a lot of work for a third-grader. I find she’s often not paying attention to what the teacher is doing, and is doodling or reading something else she’s not supposed to, and I feel like a hardass constantly telling her to pay attention. She gets frustrated by the homework, having to type everything up; I’ve been trying to reinforce her touch typing, but she often falls back to two-fingers when she’s working.

And I’m pushing Younger with her reading. We’ve been doing IXL every day for the most part, and I’m working with her on language arts as much as I can. It’s stressful, cause she gets frustrated easy, so we have to take it in short increments, a few questions, a TV show, a few questions, another show.

And trying to fit all this in while “working”…

Zombie, LLC’s home franchise was having their virtual convention yesterday, and I spent half of my workday yesterday trying unsuccessfully to get sound working in the Windows 10 VM that I use for work. I don’t know if it’s a problem with QEMU, or the Pulse Audio subsystem, but I tried to convert my QEMU image over to a VirtualBox image and ran out of space. I tried watching the Zoom meeting on my host, but I’m stuck on wifi (another problem with the ethernet card), and the meeting was pretty much unwatchable. I also tried using the Azure VM that I use for the meeting, but the throughput on that was pretty horrible.

I really don’t know what to do about the networking issue other than just put my head to the grindstone and figure out what the hell is going on. I’m not sure if it’s a driver issue with the card itself or some sort of Network Manager / NetPlan issue that I messed up. I’m just not getting an IP address unless I run dhclient directly, and that only works for a few minutes. I really wasn’t looking forward to debugging the entire Ubuntu network stack.

I did have some small wins over the past few days. Lambo1, my six-GPU mining rig, had been acting up, so I wound up disconnecting the rig and pulling out every card one-by-one and spraying then off with air. It looks like one of the power cables stopped working, but it took an hour of swapping and restarting to figure it out. The riser support was slipping down as well, which may have contributed. I also managed to finally figure out how ssh-agent and ssh-add work together with ssh to allow automatic login. It had always been one of those things that I managed to clobber together once in a blue moon, but I had to redo my Gitlab and Github keys on both my development workstations, and now I’ve got it figured out. It’s so nice to be able to clone my repos and push without having to lookup passwords.

I think my BTC bullishness may have caught on with the Missus. She’s sitting on a lot of cash right now and just opened a Vangard account, per her FIRE peeps. I bought a small amount for her during the 2017 run up, and it’s now worth three times what she paid for it. We were comparing notes on portfolio performance she said, “OK, I’ll buy some more”. I’ve been trying to get her to setup a BlockFi account, but she’s had other things on her mind. I’ll probably just have her set the account up with some cash, and we’ll feed the interest into BTC. Maybe I’ll add some dollar cost averaging into the mix if she want to fund it further.

Crypto exposure in equities markets

Introduction to cryptoassets for traditional investors

Sometime in the past few weeks, after Microstrategy and Square announced that they were holding $BTC as a treasury asset, someone put together BitcoinTreasuries.com as a way to track other public and private companies that have exposure.

Earlier today I checked the list and noticed a new name on the list, Bit Digital ($BTBT), which lead to a conversation on Twitter which I felt needed explanation beyond the two hundred and eighty character limit. So this post is squarely aimed at traditional equities investors who are trying to understand crypto and the industries around it.

Getting started

First off, if you want to understand Bitcoin, I recommend The Bitcoin Standard (affilliate link). I’m not the biggest fan of the author, but the book does a good job of explaining things despite the tone. The Nakamoto Institute has a crash-course as well that is probably handy, although I haven’t read the entire collection.

Other resources that I’ve found helpful in the past includes: Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond and the HashPower series by Invest Like The Best’s Patrick Oshaughnessy. Laura Shin’s Unchained podcast is a great source of current news about what’s going on in the space. And one of the best minds in the space is Andreas Anotonopolis, who has written numerous books on Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The current recommendation that I would give to investors coming into the space is to convert between one and five percent of your current net worth directly in BTC. Dollar cost averaging is perhaps the best strategy to use instead of a lump purchase, due to bitcoin’s volatility. Coinbase and Gemini are two fiat on-ramps that I recommend, but there are more springing up all over the place, RobinHood, Square, and now Paypal. If you plan on investing more than a couple hundred dollars, however, you’ll want to invest in a hardware wallet and use an on-ramp that will let you withdraw your coins to your own wallet. There’s a lot to cover here, more than I have time for today in this post.

In general, most OG crypto people follow the maxim “not your keys, not your coins”. The entire premise around bitcoin is that of self-sovereignty, and entrusting your funds to a custodial entity, such as onramps or exchanges, goes against this ethos. That said, there are places where it can’t be avoided.

Crypto exposure in equity markets

While I have been building up my crypto positions over the past few years, I also have a larger IRA that I’ve carried over from 401Ks accumulated over two decades in traditional corporate jobs. (I cashed out my traditional brokerage account for BTC last cycle.) So I’ve spent the last couple months trying to find exposure to crypto markets, where I can take advantage of tax deductible deposits and tax-free capital gains.

Grayscale

The most direct exposure to crypto in the equities space for US investors is via Grayscale Investment’s Digital Trusts, mainly the Bitcoin ($GBTC) and Ethereum ($ETHE), and to a lesser extent, the Digital Large Cap fund ($GDLC), which is a basket of BTC, ETHE, and a couple other alts. I do not recommend the Ethereum Classic trust ($ETCG), and the other single-asset funds are not available through standard broker accounts yet.

Until there is a straight bitcoin-derived ETF, which may be a long way off, Grayscale is probably the best bet for exposure to Bitcoin. There are a few things to keep in mind though. Grayscale operates with a two percent annual fee, and the bitcoin per share of GBTC is currently at 0.00095320, according to their website. However, the Grayscale vehicles trade at a premium to the underlying value of the BTC in the trust. The GBTC premium is currently at twenty percent, and the ETHE one is at fifty, although this is near an all time low.

Other equities

Let’s take at the companies listed on the BitcoinTreasuries page. I’ll mention the ones that I have positions in: RIOT, HIVE Blockchain (HIVE/HVBTF), MGTI, and Voyager (VYGR/VYGVF). I also have two other positions not on the treasuries list, Marathon ($MARA) and DPW Holdings ($DPW), that have exposure to BTC as well.

A number of them are involved in mining activities, so let’s break that down.

Bitcoin is the world’s first truly scarce asset. The mining process, as it’s called, is actually a competition to see who can win a mathematical contest to mine a new block, and win the block subsidy, (currently 6.25 BTC) as well as the transaction fees. There are a couple analogies that one can use to describe this, but I like to use coin flips.

Imagine that you and I are in a contest to see who can flip ten coins in a row and have them all come up heads. It may take the two of us a while to do that, but as more people join our game, the amount of time before someone ‘wins’ will decrease. This is essentially what happens with bitcoin, but in this case the game is a contest to perform a cryptographic hash function using the last block and a random nonce as inputs. In this case the winner is the one that can generate a hash with a sufficient number of zeros in the front. This process is known as proof of work (PoW).

Another critical component of the bitcoin algorithm that makes it work is the difficulty adjustment. This adjustment, built into the bitcoin PoW protocol, is triggered every 2016 blocks, or about every two weeks. It changes up or down to keep bitcoin’s blocks coming every ten minutes on average. As more miners enter the blockchain network, this adjustment ramps up. As you can imagine, this leads to a race for hashpower, as manufacturers put out faster, more power-efficient hardware to mine faster.

So when someone asks what the “intrinsic value” of bitcoin is, I usually point them to the capital cost of the hardware securing the network, as well as the cost of electricity used to run those machines. There’s a lot more detail to go into about the mining process, especially with regard to the stock to flow model and halvening process, for example, but that will have to wait for another post. What I will mention is that we just had the second largest difficulty adjustment in history, as a number of Chinese mining companies shut down their equipment. Most of them were taking advantage of low-cost hydroelectric power during the recent rainy season, and are relocating due to higher prices. The takeaway here is that it will mean better returns for others who are still mining on the network.

One last note about mining companies. There are number of cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin that can be mined. There are forks of bitcoin that can be mined using the same specialized ASICs, although I recommend staying away from them, and there are other currencies that use traditional graphics cards like those used for video games, called GPUs. I mention this because there have been ASIC mining operations that focused on non-bitcoin during the last bear cycle that weren’t able to stay afloat.

Generally speaking, I don’t recommend exposure to any of these mining companies unless you’re very familiar with the space, and/or as is my case, looking to take a gamble that one could see an outside return during a BTC bull run. Caveat emptor.

Other cryptocurrencies

As I alluded to a moment ago, anyone can take the Bitcoin source code, modify it, and create a new bitcoin fork. There have been many attempts over the years, and I won’t name them. I generally stay away, and agree with most bitcoin maximalists that the original BTC is the best store of value out there. That said, there are other blockchain projects out there that have different aims and use cases. The only one that I’ll mention is Ethereum, which is a smart contract platform, and allows one to program applications on the blockchain and have them run in a decentralized, autonomous way. It’s been around for several years, and is the king of the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) space, which is generating huge interest amongst developers and finance types. It’s the main focus of my activities right now.

There is a lot going on with Ethereum right now, so I recommend caution before taking a position in it, at least until you understand the landscape. I advise even greater caution with other cryptocurrencies, or altcoins. I’ve been in the space since 2014, and have spent hundreds of hours researching various projects, reading white papers, and the number of scams, hacks, contract failures and rug pulls that I’ve seen in this short time is staggering.

Fiat onramps like Coinbase, Gemini, and others have been adding other cryptoassets to their platforms over recent years, mainly cause the demand is there, but anyone who thinks that any of these tokens will see price appreciation anything like bitcoin over the last four years are probably going to be in for a rude awakening. Are double digit gains possible? Sure, but I am not betting anything other than a small stake, especially if we’re on the cusp of a BTC moon run.

A note about trading pairs: a few years ago, your owly onramp into cryptoassets from fiat was into bitcoin, which was then traded for other altcoins. As a result, most traders tracked their performance by the BTC price. The rationale here being that if you lost value in BTC terms you would have been better off not trading. As fiat on-ramp have made it possible to go directly from USD to other tokens, some have stopped this practice, although I still stick to it. More recent trading and market making platforms have introduced swap mechanisms which make it possible to go from one token to virtually any other, performing whatever third or nth level conversions necessary in the background. Since my long term goal is to accumulate BTC, not USD, I still track all trades via the BTC pair.

Stablecoins and Tokenization

Another trend that I think is worth mentioning is that of stablecoins and tokenization of hard assets. Basically, fintech companies have figured out that they can use a type of Ethereum asset called an ERC20 token as a digital dollar, and transmit these tokens over Ethereum as an alternative to the traditional fiat settlement system in traditional finance. Ethereum transactions settle in as little as twelve seconds, compared to ten minutes for bitcoin, and days for banks. These tokens go by the name Tether, USDC, DAI, or GUSD, and are supposedly backed by physical reserves of the various issuers. There is a lot going on in this space, I recommend you checkout The Crypto-Dollar Surge and the American Opportunity if you are interested in more.

Lastly, I wanted to mention asset tokenization, cause it will likely be huge in the coming years. Stablecoins are basically tokenized dollars, and we’re already seeing companies tokenize traditional equities on blockchains, and real estate is right around the corner. I bring this up cause I was asked directly about Vemanti Group’s plan to offer a gold-backed crypto. I’ll only speak in general terms, since I’m not familiar with Vemanti. I have seen a host of gold-backed crypto projects in my day, and I’ve got a general unease about the concept.

While there’s generally nothing wrong with gold-backed crypto per se, the whole idea as bitcoin as an alternative to gold makes me question the motivation behind such aims. The whole point of bitcoin as an alternative to gold as a store of value has to deal with gold’s difficulty to transport, as well as seizure risk. It seems like a step backward to me.

The main risk here that I see is one of custodial risk. Bitcoin, Ethereum and blockchain technology as a whole are decentralized projects, and one’s which allow trustless interactions between adversaries. When you start talking about asset tokenization, you’re putting trust in a third party. Tether for example, has been highly controversial because of accusations that they print more Tether than they actually have reserves for.

Color me skeptical about gold-backed crypto projects. Again, there’s nothing wrong with it in general, but for the most part, I think that the more people understand how bitcoin works, the less interest they’ll have in gold in general. Again, I do think there is a huge opportunity in tokenization of assets, and I’m looking forward to see how this plays out in the future.

TL;DR:

To sum up, I hope this serves to answer some questions traditional asset investors have about the crypto space. I truly think it’s the greatest opportunity of my lifetime, and that we’re on the cusp of widespread adoption by retail, institutional and sovereign investors that will be unlike we’ve seen. The tech is moving super fast, and truly understanding Bitcoin requires a fundamental shift in thinking about money and economics, especially scarcity.

Again, the best exposure is direct exposure to BTC, preferably in self-custody, but getting started with an institutional custodian while you figure that out is ok. It’s how most people start. There are a number of new instruments popping up for retirement or institutional accounts that we didn’t cover, Grayscale is probably the best option out there for those getting started.

Once you understand the technology, good luck to you, cause I don’t know anyone that has invested the time to make it that far that has ever gone back. It’s a whole new world. Please do your own research before you make any significant investments.

Hopefully this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment.

Feeling down

I finished reading The Ascent of Money yesterday, and immediately started on The Bitcoin Standard, by Saifedean Ammous. The book has been touted on perhaps the best book on bitcoin economics, but Ammous remains a bit of a firebrand to me. I follow him on Twitter, and he’s a bit of a Coronavirus skeptic. Not necessarily from the disease itself, but from the shutdowns and economic effects that they’ve had.

He’s very vocal, say the least, and a bit arrogant. He was actually just on Laura Shin’s Unchained, and she asked him about his response to something Yuval Noah Harari said in Sapiens about debt, and Ammous said something to the effect that “I have no interest in what a Marxist anthropologist has to say on economics,” before going off for several minutes on the subject. That’s not to say that the man isn’t brilliant or hasn’t written a great book, but he comes off as a bit insufferable. I should have known when I saw the introduction was written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

I spent way too much time today on Zero Hedge, questioning everything. Now I’m ready to short hotel chains with put options, hoard my cash and set tight stops on all my equities positions. Apparently Europe is about to institute martial law or something and go back into lockdown, and we’re about to have a huge market correction. I don’t know. I went down the rabbit hole a bit today and looked at a blog focused on economic collapse. I haven’t felt this paranoid since I was into 9/11 trutherism and peak oil. The proximity to the election is a bit a unnerving.

My Amazon position stopped out this week, closing a position I’ve held for over ten years. Now my portfolio is a quarter cash, another quarter $GBTC, and the rest is split between three dozen or so equities, with $NFLX and $ATVI being the largest of those.

I have added Compass Pathways ($CMPS) to my watch list. They have a synthetic version of psilocybin that they currently have in phase three trials for treatment resistant depression. It’s something I’ve been interested in for a while. MAPS co-founder Rick Doblin made the rounds on Tim Ferriss and Peter Attia‘s podcasts last year, and it amazing to think that they may actually get this approved in the United States.

Other than that, I haven’t been too active today, just taking it easy with the family.

Live free

silhouette of person standing on rock surrounded by body of water

Dreaming of a life of financial independence

Today I’ve occupied myself mainly by watching the price of Bitcoin on TradingView. I went to bed last night with the price having settled a bit above ten thousand, and woke this morning to find it up another three hundred dollars. It had been bouncing around a bit this morning before just blasting up and testing eleven thousand a few hours ago while I was out making a short trip out for work. Days like this I become obsessed with my IRA, checking in several times a day to see if I’ve breached another ATH in my retirement account.

We’ve got a dry erase magnet on our fridge, about the size of a sheet of paper. I’ve written “FIRE by 2024” on it, along with a list of debts: mortgage, student loans, and my car. At the bottom is the price that bitcoin needs to hit before we can wipe all of that out: $67K. Not that I have a solid plan to sell everything and just retire at that point, it’s more of a psychological reminder of freedom, where we’ll be secure, and be able to walk away from everything if we need to. Of course that doesn’t take into account for taxes and ongoing expenses, and selling all of our bitcoin would have the tremendous downside of well, not having any bitcoin, but it represents the promise of being secure in our future, not just for myself and my wife, but for my kids as well, who have their own accounts set aside on my cold wallet and with BlockFi.

I’m in a bit of competition with my wife, who took a very different track earlier than I did, going into grad school and getting her Masters’ and working hard to secure a government job with immense benefits such as healthcare and a pension. I spent much of my adult life under twenty five fucking around, honestly, getting by with life on easy mode, partying and boozing it up until our orbits came together. We’ve spent sixteen years together now, and I owe much to her for getting me out of my comfort zone these last few years. I credit becoming a dad as probably the biggest single factor in that equation.

We still have remarkably different approaches to life, I’ve always used the term complementary to describe how we mesh. She’s playing the safe, long game, intending to collect her government pension, socking away her contributions in whatever index fund offered to her, stacking a modest amount to the kids’ 529 college funds. Me, I’m buying bitcoin instead, running miners and picking stocks based on my knowledge of technology, trying to follow trends and carve out more aggressive gains from my more modest contributions. I’m hoping to win big, she tells me not to jump off of any buildings should the market crash.

Another example is a bet we have about autonomous vehicles. She told our daughter Elder that she’ll make sure that she gets a driver’s license when she turns sixteen, in about eight years. I bet her that Elder would never need one, since I expect autonomous taxis to be cheaper than private vehicle ownership. I hedged on whether manually driven cars would still be on the road, whether Elder could still get a license. I even did a book swap with her, giving her a copy of The Future Is Faster Than You Think to make my case, but she hated it so much that she didn’t even finish it.

And now our current COVID landscape has brought everything into question. Everything is up for re-examination, all of our assumptions up for debate. We’ve been reconsidering our jobs, our house, how we live, our relationships with friends and family, and what we want out of life. She’s always been focused on working for the future, and all of that has been called into question. Maybe part of it that the stability she’s cherished and sacrificed for has been called into question, while I’m finding myself in an environment where I’m thriving.

There’s a lot to suss out. Over the last day or so, my brain has started coalescing around an idea for my next longform newsletter. I had been focusing on the future of work, but I think this time I’ll branch out a bit more and look at the the future as it relates to these new possibilities. There are a lot of books that the two of us have been sharing recently and I want to explore some of the thoughts around stoicism, minimalism, and life design in a post. It’s going to be a challenge, and I want to put some notes together around them before I start writing.

I’ve never had a want for hobbies, and have basically lived my life as I could if I was retired. I won’t say that hermit is an apt term, but the lockdown hasn’t really affected my social life, if you know what I mean. I’ve been content, troubled only by the way I’ve allowed my temper to flare in response to the way the kids misbehave. For me, I’ve always found solace in reading books or blogs, or putting that knowledge to work in front of a keyboard. Missus has always relied on vacations or trip to the spas for rewards, and all that has been taken away by COVID, so it’s been more challenging for her. She’s been forced to adapt much more than I have, and is finding refuge in gardening, for one.

The kids are young enough that they’ve dealing fine. Younger will probably forget before the pandemic in a few years. All the local teachers unions have come out for virtual classes for the start of next year, which means we’ll probably just pull them completely and do homeschool. This furthers our desire to opt out. Choosing a school was one of the main reasons we bought this house that we did, and with the entire family effectively turning into digital nomads, we can effectively live and work anywhere with a fast internet connection. The fact that Americans are effectively restricted from entering most of the rest of the work is another problem entirely, but at least we have domestic options.

For now I will write, and teach the kids, work on our mini-homestead and learn how to function in a COVID world, all while waiting for $67,000 bitcoin, and dreaming about what we’ll do when we get there.

Six Figure FIRE Update: Day 6

Job search, investing performance, and BTC reFIREment plan

So here I am writing at night again today, as getting up early just hasn’t been my thing lately. The girls are enjoying the quarantine bubble that we’ve formed with the family down the street, and they spent most of the day outside playing today. It was the most productive day I’ve had in a long while.

I applied to two jobs the past two nights, one, a fast-growing firm that provides AI-enabled insights for customer data, Outlier.AI, and a startup trying to “cancel the endless cycles of extractive capitalism,” Good Money.

Outlier is a rather large firm that has an office nearby and meets my salary requirements; Good Money is an unknown, but it’s a startup and the culture looks so awesome. I’ll keep applying to my dream list over the next few days: Square, GitLab, Stripe, Twilio. I’m also continuing my consulting gigs, but I don’t know that I can grow that fast enough to reach my goal. We shall see.


Other good news today is that the retirement account hit a new all time high. I was finally able to figure out my actual account performance by looking at my cost basis gains.

SecurityOpen dateClose dateGain(%)
APPLE INC (AAPL)12/26/201310/5/2018170.64
AMBARELLA, INC. (AMBA)12/26/20139/19/201819.05
AMBARELLA, INC. (AMBA)9/3/20159/19/2018(55.98)
AMBARELLA, INC. (AMBA)11/4/20159/19/2018(40.97)
AMAZON COM INC (AMZN)12/26/20139/6/2018383.27
AMAZON COM INC (AMZN)2/20/20149/6/2018457.70
ACTIVISION BLIZZARD INC (ATVI)12/1/201410/10/2018248.63
BAUSCH HEALTH COMPANIES INC (BHC)12/26/20139/13/2018(80.58)
8POINT3 ENERGY PARTNERS LP (CAFD)8/5/20156/21/2018(20.48)
8POINT3 ENERGY PARTNERS LP (CAFD)8/3/20166/21/2018(25.19)
3D SYSTEMS CORP (DDD)2/20/20149/5/2018(75.12)
3D SYSTEMS CORP (DDD)2/18/20159/5/2018(38.07)
FORTINET INC (FTNT)5/4/20179/5/2018112.83
NVIDIA CORPORATION (NVDA)2/10/201610/8/2018917.65
OCEANEERING INTL INC (OII)12/26/20139/18/2018(68.84)
Total:93.58
2018 Realized Gain/Loss

Obviously Amazon and NVidia were the big dogs here. My portfolio was imbalanced with the sheer amount that I was holding there, and I had a bad feeling about the economy. I wanted cash in hand, so I sold about half my position via a trailing stop. It looks like genius in hindsight.

2019 wasn’t too great from a gains perspective. On paper it’s only about 4%, but realistically it should be more since I was covering positions, covering my initial capital investment while retaining the rest of the position, risk free. I was able to take profits on GBTC, Paypal, RestoreBio, and Yext, but lost most of it in Aurora Cannabis and Cronos Group when weed stocks collapsed. I also got stopped out trying to play a very volatile penny stock involved in Bitcoin mining operations.

2020 hasn’t seen any major sells, my trading is automated now via my value averaging protocols. Very low volume, so to speak, and a modest 4.7 percent realized gains. My unrealized gains, however, are sitting at a whopping 38.54 percent! Most of that is Amazon (2014), NVidia (2016-17), GBTC, (2019-20; about one-third of my total portfolio,) and Netflix (2013). Major losers include Sierra Wireless, Hive Blockchain Technologies, FireEye, Overstock, and 3D Systems Corp. I’m currently holding thirty-one positions in all, seven of which I’m currently value averaging into.

Before I go tooting my own horn too much, though, I’ve got to acknowledge a bit of cherry picking here in the results. Due to my original brokerage being acquired, I don’t have access to my full trade history prior to the last four years. I’m sure it’s ugly. It’s not really fair to cout gains on positions I’ve held since 2013 while tossing out the ones I lost on during that time frame. I also closed out my traditional brokerage account, about one-fifth of my IRA at the time, and put it into bitcoin in 2017, before it broke 10K.


I am obviously putting my money where my mouth is with Bitcoin. Between my hardwallet and GBTC holdings, I have well more than half of my liquid net worth in the big orange coin, and a smaller bit more in Ethereum and other tokens. I’ve done the calculations and am looking at a BTC price target of $67K, at which point I will have more than enough to pay off all mortgage and student loan debt and establish my financial independence. My target date is sometime before the next halving, which I based off of the stock to flow model, which predicts BTC ranging above $100K before then.

There are lot of details to be worked out before we get there though. Obviously taxes is going to be the big one. I assume we’ll be looking at long term capital gains in the case of Bitcoin. GBTC gains in my IRA are untaxed, but withdrawing anything will be subject to income tax plus 10% early withdrawal penalty. So the best strategy right now is to continue to accumulate and hodl. Since I think BTC is going to accumulate price much faster than my four percent loans, it makes more sense for me to continue to accumulate BTC while making the regular payments.

One change I will be making moving forward is that I am going to resume contributions to my IRA, which I suspended in favor of buying bitcoin directly the past few years. I am missing out on the tax savings from my contributions, which is going to be a big factor next April given my expected increase in income. Once we’ve topped that bucket off, I can make a final decision on where my additional savings will go.

Bitcoin vs. Coronavirus

It’s no secret that I am a huge bitcoin bull. For all my worries about risk and capital management with my financial investments, both equities and cryptocurrencies, I have thrown caution to the wind as far as bitcoin is concerned. I’d say that roughly two thirds of my total net worth is invested in either bitcoin or GBTC right now. Most of that is held directly in BTC in a hard wallet, and the rest via GBTC in my IRA.

About two months ago I started implementing a value averaging protocol to purchase GBTC. Each Monday, I would gauge the value of my GBTC holdings against a predetermined value, one-twentieth total capital times the number of weeks, and then place a buy or sell order, depending on whether I was above or below the target. The total capital that I planned for this deployment was about a third of my entire portfolio. I had set stops on several of my larger positions to gain cash, many of which triggered during the general market dip in 2019.

For the first fifteen weeks it was straight buy orders. I calculated the price that would trigger my max sell order, and on week eighteen, during the January run up, it triggered. Then the following week, I had a sell order. The last two weeks, as the price oscilated around the $10,000 mark, I was right on target, and didn’t have to place any large orders. During these few weeks, doubt began to creep and I found myself questioning the plan.

What if this was the start of the bull run to $50,000 or higher? Why would I sell? I questioned whether to break the plan and re-enter, or go even further and allocate even more than I had planned originally. I was able to squash this FOMO, and held firm. I had taken some profits, my position was up, and I would have at least another month to buy back in, as my profit taking had decreased my cost basis below my original target.

Weekly chart over the course of value averaging. Blue arrows indicate sell orders. Overall cost basis for period is 9.77/share.

And good thing I did. Effects of the Coronavirus caused a selloff in the markets, and bitcoin has fallen with it, about fifteen percent. I’m still holding to the plan, and will wait until Monday to buy back in. Patience, patience.

Also, I continue to accumulate BTC on a weekly basis, although on a much smaller scale. I’ve written a Python script to purchase a small amount through Gemini and transfer it to my hardware wallet. I’ve got one address for myself, and one for each of my children. The script alternates between them each week, placing buy orders and sending the proceeds to each of our addresses.

I plan on sharing this script via a Git gist or something shortly. It’s part of a larger trade planning library that I’m working on, and I’ve got to triple check that I’m not disclosing anything that shouldn’t be made public. I’ll do the same with the GBTC value averaging results, but that will be more difficult to scrub.

More economic and political news

The big news today seems to be a three percent pullback in the stock market due to Coronavirus fears, or the threat of a Sanders presidency, depending on who you ask. I wrote yesterday that Trump’s obsession with a health economy leading up to the election was leading forcing the Fed to inject liquidity into the markets, and that efforts were likely to fail at some point and lead us into a recession. What goes up, as they say… I also noted that the Coronavirus might be a big monkey wrench that throws us into global recession sooner than later. And while I haven’t bought face masks for my family yet, I am thinking about it.

$250,000 BTC?

This interview with Bitcoin bull Tim Draper was really interesting. The first two minutes are slow cause he just keeps repeating that the market’s are “frothy”, but then he gets into talking about bitcoin for several minutes. At one point he repeats his $250,000 price target for 2024, and is asked how much of his net worth is in crypto and he refuses to answer.

His point about the credit card fees versus Bitcoin is well-made also, as well as his arguments about banks in general. He throws out OpenNode as an example. Taking a quick look at it, they charge less than one percent per transaction, and even process the first $10,000 free of charge. They also have plugins for Shopify and WooCommerce. Neat!

Social Democracy vs. Unfettered Capitalism

I’ve been using Basecamp for several months lately, and have been using it with several clients lately. One of the founders, Jason Fried, has been on the Peter Attia pod a couple times since he started and I really appreciated the approach they take to running a business, work-life balance, and success. It really seemed like a breath of fresh air and a really healthy outlook.

A little over a year ago I participated in my first startup competition, and Angel investor Jason Calacanis was one of the keynotes. Afterward I got a bit caught up in the prospects and started listening to his The Week In Startups pod, but quickly burned out on it due to the number of episodes they put out and some general antipathy to the culture in general. So when I saw Fried’s co-founder, David Heinemeier Hasson, was a guest on TWIS, I added it to my feed and listened to it earlier today. I was not expecting what I heard.

Hasson is from Denmark, and the conversation quickly went to discussion about how America can “get to Denmark”, this is, providing citizens with basic services like healthcare and education for free. And Hasson is a pretty strong advocate for social democracy, and a fierce critic of exploitative capitalism, especially gig economy firms like Uber, of which Calacanis is an early-stage investor in. This was a really interesting conversation, and one that I will be sharing quite a bit with people in the run up to the Democratic primary here next week.

Selling in a bull market

We’re already a week into February; it seems like this year is flying along already. And what a crazy one it is. I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the price of Bitcoin; it seems like the bull market is here and ready to fulfil my dreams of wealth. Also, it seems like Sanders is in position to take the Democratic presidential nomination. On the other hand, Trump just got acquitted by the Senate, and the Democratic party seems to be doing everything they can to fuck things up.

I’ve been very low-key about crypto lately. I don’t talk to people much about in real life. I have fun with it on Twitter, but the fact is that if things go right, I don’t want people to know how much I’m involved with it. Keeping control of your bank is all fun and games until someone gets kidnapped. Someone on Twitter was bragging about being a member of the 10BTC club, and I warned them about OPSEC. They took the tweet down after.

I’ve done my best to protect my holdings. I’ve got redundant hardware wallets plus the private keys protected, but it’s starting to get to the point where I don’t feel entirely safe. I could literally make more from hodling this year than I do at my day job. That’s insane. Many months ago, during the depths of the bear market, I set some dynamic price targets to sell some of my holdings once things took back off using the Mayer Multiple (MM), or the price of BTC as a multiple of its 200-day exponential moving average. I’ve also posted the current MM chart and the TradingView PineScript I used to create it as well.

//@version=1
study("Mayer Multiple", overlay=false)

psma_length = input(100, title="Price SMA Length")
msma_length = input(250, title="Multiple SMA Length")


ma = sma(close, psma_length)
multiple = close / ma
mma = sma(multiple, msma_length)

plot(multiple, title='EMA Multiple', color=#891A0D, linewidth=3)
plot(mma, color=orange, linewidth=2)

Looking at the above chart, one can see that the price of bitcoin has usually peaked when the MM hits 1.9. The winter 2017 bull run peaked just under 2.9x. So a possible strategy would be to start selling as the MM approaches these numbers. I won’t be dumping my holdings at these points, rather I’ll probably start scaling out gradually. I’ve been using a dollar-cost averaging approach, or accumulating, every week, so I think I may start selling the same amount as the price reaches 1.55-1.60x, which is currently $12,900. However, I have made a decision to sell a significant portion of my holdings if we reach 2.88 like we did at the end of the last bull run. That would be just under $24,000. Of course those numbers are dynamic and will likely be much bigger if we take our time to get there. Otherwise, I assume we’ll have some sort of blow off top with opportunity to buy back in later.

I truly believe that Bitcoin represents the greatest financial opportunity that I’ve seen in my lifetime, and one of the main difficulties I’m struggling with is how to balance my risk. I’ve already got a majority of my net worth in crypto, and the temptation to go even further is strong. I’ve written about GBTC in the past; in the next week I’ll complete a 20-week value-averaging plan that I’ve been executing. It’s just hit it’s max payout target for the first time, and we are fully in the black. More about that next week.

That said, it’s hard finding a sell strategy. The important thing is to have a plan, and having the discipline to execute it. My hope is that I can use some of the longer-term trend indicators to build a cash reserve that I can redeploy during the next bear market. If we’re setting up for another multi-year parabolic bull run, then I want to make sure that I take profits and do so slowly enough that I don’t miss too much of the top.

Trade wars and crypto gainz

The last couple days have been pretty interesting in the cryptocurrency and equities markets. The Fed lowered interest rates for the first time since 2008, back before Bitcoin had been created, and CryptoTwitter has been abuzz about what it means. Most see it as a devaluing of the US dollar, and ultimately good for Bitcoin. The Trump tariff chaos is also being seen as ultimately good for Bitcoin, assuming that its ‘store of value’ thesis holds up and it’s used as a hedge against US markets tanking. That’s how I’ve been acting, anyways.

The US economy — at least as measured by GDP and the S&P, we’ll leave broader economic issues for another day — has been in a bull market for much longer than we traditionally see in the market, and prominent investors believe that we are overdue for a pullback. There are claims that the Administration fears a downturn before the next US election, and that the fight between Trump and the Federal Reserve over interest rates is because the President wants to give the economy a boost in the hopes that any impact won’t be felt until after his re-election. With last week’s rate cut, it looks like he won that fight, but we’ll see if things play out like he wants.

The lower interest rate will have a devaluationary effect on the dollar, and seems to have pissed off the Chinese, who have since decided to devalue the Yuan in response. This sent Bitcoin prices flying as the Asia markets opened, and it continued upward after the US markets opened and proceeded to tank about two percent. Whether the Bitcoin price increase is due to capital flight, Asians trying to hedge their capital, or just speculators anticipating such a move remains to be seen.